With schools closed many parents or doing some form of homeschooling for their children. For many people this is the first time they have encountered this type of education. Along with the obvious challenges, there are some tremendous benefits to engaging in the homeschooling process. We will document some of our own adventures with this endeavor.
Last month we did a homeschool field trip to Lockport, NY, the Erie Canal and a cemetery to find Jesse Hawley’s grave site. The canal was Hawley’s brainchild.
The locks were truly fascinating. I have visited the site about a year ago but admittedly did not understand the engineering behind them. Since then I have read a book on the canal and did some study on how locks work. They’re truly engineering marvels especially considering the lack of expertise and training that a lot of the lock builders had at the time they were built. In Lockport there is a series of eight original locks that run in parallel with the more modern canal locks. Fascinating stuff. History and engineering combined.
There were only a few people around town so we had the place to ourselves. If I remember correctly it was before the state was recommending masks in public. We wore ours but did not see many others with them.
After visiting the locks we did an online search and found the cemetery where Jess Hawley was buried. Jesse Hawley was an interesting historical figure. He was a settler of Upstate New York who went bankrupt early in life. He ran off to Pennsylvania to escape debtor’s prison. Eventually he turned himself in and served time. While serving time he conceived of the idea of the Erie Canal. He wrote many correspondences about the idea and helped drive the planning of the project.
We didn’t ultimately find Jesse Hawley’s grave site. We were under a time crunch and afraid to ask the groundskeeper of the cemetery because of social distancing. But we think we were close and did have a lot of fun hunting, discovering and looking at the old faded tombstones.
We came across a guy who was walking his 2 fat black Labrador retrievers. It surprised me how slow they were. My 7 year old was able to easily outrun them.
Anyhow, 2 things struck me: I feel like the open ended nature of the hunt for Hawley’s grave and the fact that we didn’t ultimately find it was perhaps more of an educational opportunity than if we simply followed some map to a designated landmark. I hope it taught the kids that there’s not always a clear roadmap to the destination in life and that you have to be persistent and willing to uncover lots of rocks. Sometimes you come up short but still discover other meaningful things.
Other lesson: my one son said that it was the best field trip ever. When I asked why he said it was because nobody was telling him to “get over here” and “get down off that hill.” He wanted freedom to explore.
I can’t blame him. Maybe uninhibited exploration is its own lesson.